Kosovo parliament backs Albin Kurti as new prime minister

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Parliamentary election in Kosovo

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo's parliament backed Albin Kurti as prime minister on Monday, more than a month after the small Balkan country held a snap election.

Kurti, 46, a leftist and an Albanian nationalist, whose coalition secured 67 votes in the 120-seat parliament, said its main priorities will be the fight against corruption and the creation of jobs in a country with the youngest population in Europe and unemployment of around 30%.

If it wants to join the European Union, Kosovo must also improve relations with neighbouring Serbia, which is a candidate for membership in the bloc.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade, backed by Russia, China, and some EU members, refuses to recognise it.

Before the vote, Kurti said he wants to resolve all pending issues with Serbia, but added that recognition of Kosovo's independence by Belgrade remains the main precondition.

“If Serbia does not recognise an independent Kosovo there cannot be a normalisation of relations,” Kurti said.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo, its former southern province, in 1999 after NATO bombing campaign forced it to end a bloody counter-insurgency against Kosovo Albanians.

Authorities in Pristina are struggling to contain the COVID-19 epidemic and Kurti said his government wants to have 60% of Kosovo's 1.8 million population vaccinated by the end of 2021.

Kosovo is the only country in Europe that has not yet started a vaccination campaign.

Kurti has already served as prime minister, for 50 days last year, until his coalition partner, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), sided with the opposition to topple him, mainly over the handling of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The finance minister in the new government will be Artane Rizvanolli, a professor of economics who studied in Britain.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Giles Elgood)